07 November, 2016

II Kings 10:28-30—“… thou hast done well in executing that which was right in mine eyes …”

Thus Jehu destroyed Baal out of Israel. Howbeit from the sins of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, Jehu departed not from after them, to wit, the golden calves that were in Bethel, and that were in Dan. And the Lord said unto Jehu, Because thou hast done well in executing that which was right in mine eyes, and hast done unto the house of Ahab according to all that was in mine heart; thy children of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel (II Kings 10:28-30).

This passage sometimes has been appealed to as proof for a form of common grace which says that, through a “gracious, inward operation of the Holy Spirit,” sin if restrained in the unregenerate, and, by this same operation, they are enabled to do good works in the sphere of things natural and civil, works that are pleasing in the sight of God.

The argument with this passage is that when Jehu is said to have “done well,” and that he did “that which was right” in God’s eyes, it means that he (a reprobate) done a “good deed” in the sight of God, worthy of His commendation and approval.


Prof. Herman C. Hanko

[Source: Common Grace Considered (2019 edition), pp. 268, 269]

It is true, of course, that the [text says] that Jehu … did good. But that this is proof for “good influences of the Holy Spirit upon the hearts of wicked men, so that they do good in the sight of God” is quite another matter, and there is no mention of any such thing in the text. Jehu “did good” in destroying the whole house of Ahab. It was God’s will that Ahab and his house be destroyed because of its great wickedness. Jehu was God’s appointed means to accomplish this destruction. But Jehu was glad to do it, for he revelled in killing and was sure to secure his throne by destroying any threat from Ahab’s family.


No one has ever denied that wicked and unregenerate men are able to “do good” in a certain sense of the word. Mozart can compose very beautiful music, though he was a wicked man. An architect can design a beautiful building, but not do so in a way pleasing to God and bringing God’s approval upon his good works. A carpenter can and often does build a house that has few, if any, defects, because he is an excellent builder; and we say, “He did a good job of this house.” I recall one noted theologian who said that Tiger Woods’ ability to sink a 40-foot putt was surely due to “common grace.” And so we can go on. It happens all the time in the world that men “do good” from a purely earthly viewpoint. But this is still a far cry from “moral good that the Spirit enables wicked men to do”; and it is a far cry from good that meets with God’s approval. The [text] quoted [is] entirely [besides] the point and have no bearing on the matter at hand.



Herman Hoeksema (1886-1965)


[Source: The Protestant Reformed Churches in America (1947), pp. 401-403]

2.   Does the example of Jehu prove that the natural man, through an influence of the Holy Spirit upon him, receives grace through which he is able to do good?
On the contrary, there is no mention in the text of an operation of the Holy Spirit upon Jehu at all. Nor was any amelioration or restraint of Jehu’s wickedness necessary to the performance of his deed.

3.   But does not the Lord approve of him as having “done well”?
Certainly: but this does not concern the point at issue at all. The wicked can do many things well, because of natural talent and ability, while at the same time, and with respect to the same things, they sin. This is so self-evident that the very simple can readily understand it. A man may be an able business man, so that he handles all his affairs well, and yet he may make all his business subservient to sin. He does well, yet he sins. An able engineer may invent an almost perfect mechanism, and in doing so he certainly does well, yet he may employ all his talents to enhance his own glory or for some other sinful purpose, so that he also sins while he does well. It is even possible that a man may lead a clean moral life to a certain extent and keep himself from gross outward sins, merely because he knows that a life of corruption leads him to premature destruction. For all this, no ameliorating influence of the Holy Spirit is necessary. A person may perform well a certain piece of work and yet sin. This explains exactly the story of Jehu. It is evident that he was a wicked man. For the honor and service of Jehovah he cared not, for he followed after the sins of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin. This is emphasized in the text. Both before and after the statement that he did well, it is said that he departed not from the sins of Jeroboam. From this it ought to be evident that he was not actuated by the love of Jehovah in whatever he did well. In the second place, it is also evident that Jehu was an able man, quick to see a situation and to act accordingly, undaunted in battle, thorough in all his work. And the narrative shows that he was ambitious. In the third place, it is more than evident that in the command of the Lord to extinguish the house of Ahab, Jehu perceived a means to his own advancement and aggrandizement, a way to ascend the throne of Israel. From this ambition as a motive, you can explain all that Jehu did. What he did he certainly did well. He completely extinguished the house of Ahab. And yet, while he did it, he sinned. This is, first of all, evident from the repeated statement that he did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam, which proved beyond any doubt that the love of God was not his motive. This is proven, in the second place, from Hosea 1:4: “And the Lord said unto him, Call his name Jezreel, for yet a little while and I will avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu, and will cause to cease the kingdom of the house of Israel.” For the very thing, then, which Jehu did so well, but did wickedly, he was punished as a matter of blood-guiltiness. He received a reward, indeed. And the reward was entirely in accord with the work he had done so well. In four generations he would sit on the throne of Israel. But it was the reward of the wicked, leading him more quickly to destruction. It will, then, be evident that Jehu’s example does not prove the point that the wicked can do good through an influence of God on them.


[Source: The Standard Bearer, vol. 40, no. 10 (Feb 15, 1964), pp. 220-221]

What about Jehu? Does the text from II Kings, quoted above, prove that Jehu, under the influence of the Holy Spirit (Point II), received grace (common grace is, after all, grace) by which he ‘could do’ good?

This, after all, is the question. It is not the question whether Jehu was an able general, or whether he was zealous in the accomplishment of the task assigned to him. All this may readily be granted. Also today the natural man is often very able and ambitious. But the question is whether he did good in the moral, ethical sense of the word. That is a question of motive. And motive is a matter of the inner man, of the mind, of the will, of the heart.

The Christian Reformed Synod, in the Third Point makes a distinction between saving good and civil good. Let that be as it may, although I do not want to subscribe to the distinction. Any act of man is either good or evil, i.e., in the moral or ethical sense of the word.

Good is an act when it is motivated by the love of God and of men; evil an act when in its deepest root it is motivated by hatred of God and our fellow men. There is nothing else. There can be nothing else. Now, according to the Synod of Kalamazoo, 1924, the unregenerate man can do what is called civil good. Hence, the Synod maintains that a man that is not motivated by the love of God and of the neighbor, who, in fact, in his deepest heart is motivated by enmity against God and against the neighbor, can do good. You may call it natural or civil good, to me that makes no difference—it is not sin but good, in the moral and ethical sense of the word.

This I, and all Protestant Reformed people, deny.

To me, and to all of our people, an act of man is either good or it is sin.

But what, then, about Jehu?

Did not God Himself say that Jehu did well in executing that which was right in the sight of God?

Concerning this I make the following remarks:

1. Jehu was, according to Scripture, a wicked man. Before and after the statement that he had done well in executing that which the Lord had commanded him, we read that “from the sins of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, Jehu departed not from after them, to wit the golden calves that were in Bethel and that were in Dan.” Is it possible, then, that he could do anything good in the moral, ethical sense of the word? The answer to this question is and must be negative.

2. It is evident that Jehu was a very able man. As a soldier and general, he was courageous and undaunted in battle. He was thorough in all his work.

3. It is very evident from the entire narrative that Jehu saw in the command of God to extinguish the house of Ahab a golden opportunity to further his own cause, namely, that he might occupy the throne of Israel. That was Jehu’s sole ambition. And that was also the motive for all that he did. His motive was not and could not be the love of God. O yes, he did well. Perhaps, we may say that he belonged to those men that are mentioned in Matthew 7: “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name have done many wonderful works?” No doubt, they did all these things. Jehu did the same things; he also did wonderful works. But what did the Lord say to them? He answered: “I never knew you: Depart from me, ye that work in iniquity.”

4. Moreover, for the very thing which Jehu did so well he was punished. For thus we read in Hosea 1:4: “And the Lord said unto him, Call his name Jezreel, for yet a little while and I will avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu, and I will cause to cease the kingdom of the house of Israel.” Indeed, Jehu did very well in destroying the house of Ahab, but in doing so he was not motivated by the fear of the Lord, but his own wicked ambition. Hence, in doing well he sinned.

Hence, the text does not sustain the doctrine of the third point that the natural man is able to do good, civil or otherwise.


[Source: The Rock Whence We Are Hewn (RFPA, 2015), pp. 425–26]

First, synod discovered in Scripture three examples of men who were unregenerated and of whom Scripture declares that they did what was right in the sight of the Lord. One of these examples include Jehu, the general who became king of Israel.

The good Jehu did was to exterminate the entire house of Ahab, as God had commanded him. Scripture says that he did well in executing that commandment. At the same time we read that Jehu did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam and did not walk and took no heed to walk in the law of the Lord with all his heart (II Kings 10:29–30). His extermination of the house of Ahab is later reckoned as blood guiltiness that will be avenged on the house of Jehu (Hosea 1:4).

Did Jehu perform any moral or ethical good before the Lord by exterminating Ahab’s house? Did he perform moral or ethical good under an influence of the Holy Spirit? Was his sinful nature somewhat reformed or improved before he could begin exterminating Ahab’s house? The contrary is true. Jehu did not care about Jehovah and his service. That he did not depart from the ways and sins of Jeroboam makes this clear.

His motive for executing God’s command to exterminate Ahab’s house was radically different. Jehu was ambitious. Love of power and glory and a desire for distinction and superiority controlled him. The command of Jehovah to destroy the house of Ahab was the way to realize his ambition. The hope of the royal crown inspired him, and Jehu’s natural ability matched his ambition. Hence we need not be surprised that he did well in thoroughly and quickly executing the command of the Lord. But there was no positive ethical value in his command work. No matter how well he executed Jehovah’s word, his work was ethically sinful; it was rooted in self-love and aimed at his own glory and the realization of his ambitions. A special operation of the Holy Spirit in Jehu’s heart to restrain sin certainly was wholly unnecessary for that purpose, and Scripture does not speak of it even with a word.



Ronald Hanko & Ronald Cammenga

The argument is that Jehu, though he himself was a wicked man, was nevertheless able to do good by doing what God had commanded when he destroyed the whole family of wicked Ahab. It is very clear, however, that Jehu did not do this out of love for God, for he himself re-established the worship of the golden calves, which Jeroboam had originally set up to keep the people from the worship of God in Jerusalem (I Kings 12:26-30). Instead, he did what God commanded only for himself and to secure the kingdom for himself. The Bible teaches us that whatever is not done for the glory of God, even though it be what God commands, is neither obedience nor good in the sight of God (Matt. 22:37, 38; Matt. 23:25-28; Rom. 14:23; I Cor. 10:31).



Westminster Confession of Faith (1647)

Works done by unregenerate men, although for the matter of them they may be things which God commands; and of good use both to themselves and others: yet, because they proceed not from an heart purified by faith; nor are done in a right manner, according to the Word; nor to a right end, the glory of God, they are therefore sinful and cannot please God, or make a man meet to receive grace from God: and yet, their neglect of them is more sinful and displeasing unto God (16:7).



Heidelberg Catechism (1563)

Q. 8. Are we then so corrupt that we are wholly incapable of doing any good, and inclined to all wickedness?
A. Indeed we are, except we are regenerated by the Spirit of God.

Q. 91. But what are good works?
A. Only those which proceed from a true faith, are performed according to the law of God, and to His glory; and not such as are founded on our imaginations or the institutions of men.



More to come! (DV)

NB: Check out also the online pamphlet, “The Curse-Reward of the Wicked Well-Doer” by Herman Hoeksema.

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